Night sweats should not be considered a normal phenomenon. It is when you begin to sweat profusely at night even when the surrounding temperature is cool or even cold. You may frequently be awoken from sleep due to the excessive sweating that occurs with night sweats. Your spouse or other family members may be sleeping comfortably, but you find that your slumber is constantly interrupted by this condition. It is important to remember that night sweats are not a common occurrence. Night sweats are a highly uncomfortable and unpleasant thing to experience.
Sweating such as this is often a symptom experienced by many post-menopausal women. However, it can also be caused by several other medical conditions such as tuberculosis, HIV, low blood sugar, alcohol withdrawal, drug abuse, withdrawal from drugs, or cancer.
Cancer is a dangerous condition that has been known to manifest itself in the form of night sweats as an early sign. Scroll down this page to learn all about night sweats and cancer including the causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
What Are Night Sweats?
Sweating is a normal function for the human body. It is the manner in which our body adapts to external temperatures. It is also how the body cools itself. When the surrounding temperature is hot, it is perfectly normal for the body to sweat. Our entire body contains sweat glands. When the environmental temperature is too hot or if you yourself feel overheated then your body will begin to sweat. This way, your body will be kept cool by allowing the body temperature to escape from the skin. With sweating, you not only lose water from the body but electrolytes will also be lost.
However, some people experience bouts of excessive sweating at night even when the surrounding temperature is cold. This is what is considered night sweats and is not normal for the body. If you have night sweats, your bed sheets and pillows will often become so drenched in sweat that you can no longer sleep on them.
What Are the Causes of Night Sweats?
Night sweats can occur as a result of many different causes. One of the major, frightening causes of night sweats is cancer. Night sweats can be an early symptom of many different types of cancer. Some of the most common forms of cancer that may result in night sweat symptoms are:
The exact reason why cancers cause night sweats is still not known. It could be because your body is fighting against the cancer. It can also be due to changes in hormonal levels in cancer. If cancer is causing a fever, then your body will sweat to bring down your raised body temperature. Sometimes, night sweats can also occur following chemotherapy, drugs that cause fluctuations in hormonal levels, and morphine.
Cancer is not the only cause of night sweats. Night sweats can also be caused by several other conditions including:
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus
- Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia
- Neurological diseases such as a stroke
- Anxiety or stress
- Alcohol withdrawal or withdrawal from drugs
- Drug abuse
What Should You Expect at Your Doctor’s Appointment?
If night sweats occurred just one or two times, it is not a cause for you to visit your doctor. If you merely experienced a brief bout of night sweats, then it was most likely the cause of an environmental or lifestyle factor.
It is important that you schedule a visit with your doctor if you have been experiencing night sweats on a regular basis, and they have begun to disturb your sleep. You should also visit your doctor if the night sweats are associated with other symptoms such as fever, loss of weight, and loss of appetite. At your doctor’s appointment, your doctor will likely ask you many questions regarding the symptoms you are experiencing. To better prepare for these questions, keep track of any potential symptoms. When you develop night sweats, make note of what you were doing at the time that the sweating occurred, the temperatures in your bedroom, and what you had done before that time.
Your doctor will also review your medical history and assess your symptoms. After this, your doctor will order further tests to find the underlying cause for your night sweats. Some of the tests he or she may order are:
- Blood sugar level
- Full blood count
- Thyroid function tests
If you think your night sweats are due to cancer, voice these concerns with your doctor. Take a family member or a friend when you go to visit your doctor. A friend or family member by your side during the appointment can be helpful for emotional support.
What Is the Treatment for Night Sweats?
The treatment for night sweats depends on the underlying cause. If your night sweats are due to lifestyle changes or environmental changes, then the treatment will be to avoid the triggers that may be bringing about the night sweats. If the underlying cause is an infection, then your doctor will prescribe you antibiotics. If the night sweats are due to menopause, then your doctor might consider prescribing you hormonal replacement therapy.
You can also practice some of these tips to help control the body temperature and reduce the symptoms of night sweats.
- When you sleep, place one leg or foot outside of the bed sheets and blanket. This will help to cool down your body temperature and will reduce the night sweats to some extent.
- Turn on your air conditioner or fan to keep the environmental temperature down and make your room cooler. You can also keep a window open at night to keep the environment in your bedroom more tolerable.
- Take a nice cold shower before going to bed. This will help to keep you cool at and thus reduce the amount of sweating that is experienced at night.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Use bed sheets and pillow cases that are made out of natural fibers like cotton instead of silky bed linens.